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3 Easy Ways to Ruin a Good Steak

Most people don’t go out for a steak very often – maybe once a week, if they’re lucky. What does that mean? It means that when you do go out for steak, you want to make the most of it. This is the type of meal you look forward to, anticipate, and remember after it’s over.

The same goes for buying high quality steaks at the market and cooking them at home. You want to make sure you do it right, so that you get the most out of your “home steakhouse” experience.

In either case, however, it’s very much possible to come away disappointed. Here are three easy ways to ruin a good steak – hopefully yours comes out perfect!

1. Overcooking

For steakhouse chefs (and steak aficionados, for that matter), the worst thing you can do to a really good steak is over cook it. Instead of a tender, juicy, succulent expression of the steak’s natural flavor and texture, you’re left with a tough and dry steak that isn’t nearly as enjoyable or delicious as it could have been. Obviously, everyone has their own rules and standards when it comes to eating a steak, and some people still prefer their steak well done. Most chefs would argue, however, that if you haven’t tried moving down the scale to “medium” or even “medium-rare,” you don’t know what you’re missing.

2. Over-marinating

Actually, if you talk to a seasoned steakhouse chef, they might not only tell you that over-marinating can ruin a good steak – they might well say that any kind of marinating will take away from the flavor and grandeur of a high-quality cut of beef. We normally think of marinades as a way to enhance the flavor of meat and poultry, and that’s true in so many cases. In the case of a superior steak, however, most professionals prefer to pound the meat with a little rock salt and throw it directly on the heat. This way, the natural flavors of the steak are able to fully emerge, without being lost in the spices and flavorings of marinade.

3. Not choosing carefully

Sometimes, the biggest mistake is made at the moment you order your steak. Now obviously, if you’re at a really good steakhouse, there won’t be any steak on the menu that isn’t good. But not understanding your options, and not knowing what the distinctions actually are, can prevent you from making the best menu selection. That’s why waitstaff are such a valuable resource of information. You should be able to rely on them for quality feedback about the steaks you’re considering, and to help you make the best possible decision.

Where are the best steakhouses?

The American steakhouse tradition has never been stronger, and in fact, there are plenty of international steakhouses (Brazilian, Argentinian, Japanese, etc.) right here in the states. But these establishments should all have one thing in common: They’re passionate about sourcing and preparing immaculate steaks that put a smile on the face of even the most experienced steak lover.

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What are the 3 Most Popular Types of Steak?

What kind of steak did you order on your most recent visit to a steakhouse? Do you remember the cut, the source, the preparation? Do you remember how it looked on your plate, and how that first succulent bite tasted?

If it was a really good steakhouse, the answer to these questions is probably yes. If it was a mediocre steak from a mediocre establishment, or a steak from a restaurant that doesn’t specialize in steak, you might not remember much about the experience.

But if we had to guess what type (cut) of steak you ordered that evening, it was probably one of the following:

1. New York Strip

We mentioned this one first because it’s less expensive and more widely available – you tend to see a lot of New York Strips in markets, and at restaurants. It’s a solid steak, to be sure, but it’s a little too chewy for some people, and it doesn’t have a great deal of marbling (fat content) inside. If it did, the price would be higher. But a high quality New York Strip, expertly sourced and prepared, is nothing to shake a stick at.

2. Filet Mignon

This cut is usually at the top of people’s lists – and for good reason. It’s a very tender muscle that does not perform a lot of exercise in a cow’s life. The result is a very smooth and buttery piece of steak, and if prepared right, your steak knife should easily cut through it. The taste is incredible, but some steak aficionados think that the lack of fat in this cut of beef creates a very mild flavor.

3. Rib-eye

This is, of course, another treasured cut of beef. It doesn’t always come with the rib bone in place – sometimes that bone has been removed. Unlike filet mignon, ribeye is quite fatty, both on its edges and inside (this is called marbling). The result is a vibrant and succulent flavor. These cuts are generally not as buttery and soft as the filet mignon – but they’re still tender, and the chewiness adds to the experience of the flavor.

Your next steakhouse experience…

Whether you’re new to being a steak aficionado or you’ve been at it a long time (or maybe you’ve just had your first high class steak dinner, and are curious about having more), it’s interesting to know what the popular cuts actually are. Far more important, however, is the quality of the source. Good steakhouses are very particular about where they source beef, fish, and anything else on the menu – but especially the beef. It should be from a highly reputable source, and it’s always nice to see some local farms on the menu as well. Once you get really good steak into the hands of a fully equipped and experienced steakhouse chef, you’ll be able to fully enjoy the merits of each different cut.

Choose your next steak carefully, and ask where it comes from! Your waiter should be able to give you specific information that enhances your knowledge and enjoyment of steak. Enjoy!

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Should I Marinade a High Quality Cut of Beef?

Summer is almost a reality – and here in New Jersey, it feels like we’ve been waiting a long time for it! But the cold and snow makes warmer months all the more enjoyable, and there’s one activity that everybody is looking forward to: Cooking and grilling outdoors.

That’s right – it’s time to open your favorite recipe app, head to the store, and prepare for your next great summer meal. Steak is always going to be a top contender, and you might even head to your local butcher for some really special cuts of beef.

The question is, how should you prepare that high quality piece of steak? Marinades are popular, and are commonly used for meat and poultry of all kinds. We’ve all had a marinated steak on the grill at some point, and most of us have also visited a high-end steakhouse and enjoy a professionally prepared cut of beef.

Which experience was better? In other words, should you marinate your summer steak or not? And if not, how should you prepare it?

There really isn’t a hard and fast answer to these questions, but there are a few important things to note.

First, steakhouse chefs generally do not use marinade to prepare steak. If you ask why, you’ll hear a nearly unanimous answer: Marinade merely covers up the beautiful nature flavor of the steak. Why would anybody want to do that, especially with a high quality cut of beef? A little rock salt is the only thing your average steakhouse chef will use. That way, the full flavor profile of the steak is brought out in full splendor.

But let’s be honest, not all steak is super-high quality. There are plenty of mediocre steaks out there, and using a nice marinade can actually enhance or improve the flavor and tenderness in some cases.

If you’re wondering whether to marinade steak at home, there are couple of things you can do. The next time you visit a quality steakhouse, ask whether the chef uses any marinades, and what his or her opinion may be in terms of marinating high quality steak. You can do the same thing when you buy steak from the butcher, and take advice from someone who deals with steak every day.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to a personal preference. Despite the fact that steakhouse chefs generally don’t like the idea of using marinades, there are undoubtedly people out there who prefer the taste of a nice marinade, and like to experiment with the different flavors and mixtures available.

Our advice? Buy two high quality steaks of the exact same type, from the same source. Prepare one using marinade, and the other without. Then you can decide for yourself!

Taking a cue from your local steakhouse

If you really love steak, you probably don’t always want to have it in a restaurant. There’s something very satisfying about mixing it up once in awhile and grilling your own steak, after carefully choosing a fine quality cut from your local market or butcher. Experimenting with marinades is a worthwhile pursuit – but more often than not, people have to be convinced not to use marinades, and use a more basic method to bring out the full flavor profile of the meat. Either way, enjoy your home-grilled steak this summer!